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New Running PRs

Posted 10:00 PM, October 4, 2005

    Today, was a rather momentous day in my (still short) running career -- I had to spend considerable time updating my personal record (PR) list. These type of days only come about maybe once or twice a year for an improving runner, and for a runner who has plateau-ed, these PRs can prove marks that are hard to equal for years.

    I was thinking that today might be a good day, but first let me set the background. I had been sick with a virus for the past three weeks. This virus caused inflammation of my heart, producing mild chest pain during and after exercise, and other times of the day when I was feeling stressed. Alarmed, I went to the doctor and got checked out. After an EKG (completely normal), chest X-ray (also normal), and a blood test which confirmed that I had a viral infection and allergies (something I hadn't been diagnosed with before), the doctor told me to take it easy. This was quite discouraging since I had been training for an upcoming trail race in NY. But I dutifully cut back my training volume and intensity, and put in extra miles on my bike. All of this low intensity exercise had the effect of building up a short term aerobic base which probably helped in my PR effort. In fact, I had exercised for about a week and a half with not a single day off. On Sunday I went out for a 11 mile trail run, but actually cut it short because I was feeling so tired and sluggish. So I took Monday completely off, went out to eat with friends, and generally took a much-needed rest day. The symptoms of my virus had been gradually subsiding all last week, so I was feeling ready for a time trial run today! I figured the couple weeks of low intensity combined with my rest day and positive energy budget would probably allow me to do a fairly fast run, and possibly break some PRs.

    A squall line of showers and thunderstorms was moving in, so I left work early, rushed home, and set out for my run. Besides all the other factors, the fact that a nasty thunderstorm was approaching was a definite motivating factor for me to do this run fast! The weather was cool, with a temperature of about 48 deg, and low, somewhat ominous clouds over the Foothills. I started off a bit fast, like I sometimes do during time trials -- the first mile passed in 7:03, but I managed to convince myself that this was a good "warm-up" pace. I was running along surface streets toward the Spring Creek Trail. Moving into mile 2, I felt some speed in my legs, so I kept accelerating as I ran along the fun dirt canal path. My breathing seemed pretty relaxed, which was surprising since I did this entire mile near or below 7 min/mile pace. When I passed under the bridge under Drake, my GPS watched clipped off a 6:26 mile, my fastest flat mile since I moved to Colorado and started my current running era! This was quite exciting, as the 7 min/mile pace had proven to be a tough psychological barrier in my running. I decided to back off a bit in mile 3, with the hope of pushing in mile 4. Mile 3 is along the Spring Creek Trail at a very gradual climb, and I ran this mile in 7:19. By mile 4, I was pretty much in a stasis -- I didn't feel like I could push much harder, so I just tried to hold my pace. On this route, mile 4 goes north along Overland Trail. The next 2 miles were into a stiff northerly headwind of 10-20 mph. I ran the fourth mile in 7:12. Mile 5 was a bit hard, psychologically speaking. On the one hand, I wanted to keep up my terrific pace, but I also didn't want to go into oxygen debt and have to slow down, ruining my chances for a 10K PR. I decided to try holding the pace as fast as reasonably comfortable, running the fifth mile in 7:19. About this time, I began to see some tremendous lightning flashes a few miles to the northwest. One of the strokes was downright scary, with multiple pulses into the ground that may have lasted close to a second! It reminded me of the "lightning" in the 'War of the Worlds' movie that came out this summer. Needless to say, this provided some new incentive to pick up the pace and get this run done. Mile 6 starts on a gradual downhill, then has a nearly half mile upgrade to the W Elizabeth/Overland Trail intersection. I think I must have hardly slowed at all up this hill, and my heart rate climbed up into the low 180's. I turned the corner (5.85 miles), and put in a small kick, finishing the sixth mile in 6:53! I hoofed it for another 0.2 miles to get my 10K PR, which was a sweet victory. I slowed a bit, then realized that I might as well keep running fast, as the thunder was now audible and I only had 0.8 miles to go to get a 7 mile PR. Now out of the pesky headwind, with a scary storm to the back, and a very gradual downgrade, I think my pace actually picked up. Thankfully, I caught the green light at W Elizabeth and Taft Hill, so I was able to finish in record time. I jogged the half mile back to my apartment and did the rest of my cool down inside, as the rain had begun. About 15 minutes later, the full fury of the storm hit, with some close lightning strikes and awesome thunder (I think this might have been the best lightning storm we had all summer!).        

So to summarize the stats, here are the PRs I broke today:

3 miles    0:20:48    My previous 3-mile PR (0:20:50) had stood since 1996!

4 miles    0:28:00    (old PR:  0:28:38 -- the PRs for this and the other distances were set back in April 2005.)

5 miles    0:35:19    (old PR:  0:35:54)

10K         0:43:38    (old PR:  0:44:33)

7 mile      0:49:28    (old PR: 0:50:12)

The complete progression of my flat-land running PRs is here.

What next? Well, my trail race is in only a week and half in NY, so I plan to do a moderate hill run on Thursday, a long hill run on Sunday, then a mini-taper next week, with perhaps a couple short intense workouts to 'sharpen' me for the race. Stay tuned!

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